The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free, and proud, and fighting terror – and America is honored to be their friend.George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States
The fall of Afghanistan could be one of the greatest failures of the US government in decades. It will go down in history as a paramount event that will change the course of history. US president Joe Biden recently remarked that the goal of the US presence in Afghanistan was to remove the the to US national security, the Taliban. What they claim it was not was “nation building” and establishing security in the region. To most in the West this seems like the greatest lie we’ve been told in recent memory. If the only goal was only to dismantle the Taliban, but not establish democracy, rights for women, freedom of the press and other democratic values, why did the US remain in Afghanistan for so long and do all of these things? President Bush once remarked, going into Afghanistan was so much more than freeing the world from terror. It was to show the world that a country like Afghanistan, torn apart by war and governed by terrorist groups could be transformed into a democracy with free elections, civil and women’s rights through establishment of proper governance, education and financial assistance.
The ‘Endless War’ Begins
I remember the shock and horror when the second plane hit the Twin Towers in New York. I knew the world would never be the same from that point on. In 2003 the US began to deploy a mass number of troops to Afghanistan. And so began the war to end the rule of the Taliban. It would be a messy and bloody war that would go on and on. The Taliban dug in, hiding in caves, targeting civilians and fighting a war the US and its allies could not contend with. Those that had seen this type of thing before knew, if this were somehow achievable it would not be easy. There would be unknowns. It was likely this would not end how many of us had hoped. Invading and containing the threat in a country like Afghanistan was one thing, but establishing a system that the citizens were willing to fight for would be an entirely different challenge. But leaving Afghanistan would be most difficult of all. Afghanistan throughout the last 150 years has become known as a place “where empires go to die” — the graveyard of empires”. The British learned that it was easier to do business with a local ruler with popular support than to support a leader back by foreign powers. The costs of propping up such a leader eventually fail. When the British entered the Hindhu Kush region in 1839 they quickly became locked down in a deadlock war that lasted for 3 years. This trend continued with the Soviets and now the Americans.
Over two trillion dollars been spent. The interest costs by 2050 are expected to be $6.5 trillion dollars. But money can be replaced. The loss of human life cannot. Since 2001 nearly 200,000 people have lost their lives in Afghanistan.1
- American service members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448
- US contractors: 3,846
- Afghan national military and police: 66,000
- Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144
- Afghan civilians: 47,245
- Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191
- Aid workers: 444
- Journalists: 72
A Complex Land
Afghanistan has been and will always be a crossroads country. The landlocked country shares borders with Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan to the west and Tajikistan, China and Pakistan. This adds a whole new element of challenge in itself, but that doesn’t account for the fact that Afghanistan has an incredibly complex ethnic makeup within the country itself. It has only been controlled by the Mughal empire which managed it through a light handed approach, paying off various tribes or granting them autonomy. Attempts at anything resembling centralized control, even by native Afghan governments, have failed.2 The plan to reeducate the citizens was Americans attempted, and many believe was to have worked. But when the Americans evacuated the remainder of their troops it was as though they had left sheep to wolves.
An Undefeatable Force
Many look at the Taliban as a terrorist organization, but really they are much at the heart of Afghanistan. You cannot have Afghanistan without the Taliban and you cannot have the Taliban without Afghanistan. What the Taliban stands for is a way of life for many in Afghanistan whether many like it or not. They stand for strict Islamic laws and removal of any that oppose their rule. Even though Afghanistan currently holds one of the most Islamic constitutions the Taliban claims they are not “Islamic” enough and has plans to institute stricter Islamic laws. But realistically they have plans to enforce Sharia Law once again.
But there’s a reason why the Taliban has returned and so swiftly. It’s in the hearts and minds of many of the people. Afghanistan being as complex as it is has a large portion of the population that believe in much more extreme version of Islam than Muslims in Turkey or UAE, perhaps only similar to Saudi Arabia. Further to that the US has been seen by a large portion of the population as conquerors, and not liberators. Their presence surely has brought some benefits, including a more functional economy and national security, but for many it has eroded the patriarchal state of control that men and the Islamic state once had over Afghan society.
When the Taliban walked in virtually unopposed the Afghan army lost all will to fight. This in all likelihood isn’t a result of being afraid to fight or die for a cause, but the cause wasn’t theirs to fight for. The Americans who instituted the new governments and ways of life, namely rights for women. Those that hold traditional beliefs, many of those men see the women not as second class citizens, but as commodities. Traditionally in Afghanistan women have been seen for the purpose of bearing and raising children, and household duties, but nothing more.
“I am ready to sacrifice everything in completing the unfinished agenda of our noble jihad… until there is no bloodshed in Afghanistan and Islam becomes a way of life for our people.Mohammed Omar, Afghan mujahid commander who led the Taliban and founded the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996
A Taliban Run State
Many are wondering what a Taliban run state will look like. Well, first off women will once again become commodities. Their rights, including going to school, working, and even being free to go outside will be at risk. The new Taliban regime has promised to uphold these rights, but it’s highly unlikely as they stand for ideas that are centuries old. It may simply take 6 months to a year, but it will happen. Giving power to the Taliban is similar to giving the Nazis the right to govern. Eventually the core beliefs of the Taliban will be normalized in society and the rights of women in Afghanistan will be pushed by two centuries or more. The last time the Taliban was in power women weren’t even allowed to leave the house without being accompanied by a father or brother.
As the Taliban begins to roll out Shiria Law and clamp down, those that resist and have worked closely with the Americans, deemed responsible for the deaths of Taliban fighters will be labelled as traitors to their country. They will be imprisoned, tortured and many executed. Their families will be classified as guilty by association and punished or executed, as well. As these acts begin to happen and foreign investment evaporates, Afghanistan will be taken off of list of recognized nations. The Taliban will the declare the US an enemy of the Afghan people, and begin harbouring terrorist extreme groups bent on retaliation for the years of occupation.
Like a frog in a frying pan, the Taliban will slowly turn up the heat and do as they please with the country and its people. It may take months or years, but they will enact the laws of governing the state as they please and without compromise. As they tighten their grip and begin enforcement enmasse, stripping away women’s rights and commencing with public executions the world will mourn the human tragedy, but fail to do enough to stop it. US and allies send support, but it won’t be enough and will have little to no effect. The Taliban will align with rouge nation like China, Pakistan and Russia. And new terror will once again to be formed within the Taliban run state of Afghanistan.
The Trump and Biden administrations are both at fault. There’s no question the capitulation of the Afghan army, a force of over 200,000 well trained soldiers, to defend against the Taliban has been an epic failure. But legitimizing the Taliban prior to this was an awful mistake. Zero concessions were made and scenarios such as complete collapse of defenses and and overrun by the Taliban within a few months for some reason was not planned for. The rushed evacuation of US troops has not ended the war in Afghanistan, but perpetuated it. American security requires that enemies do not have safe havens to attack, but this policy has ensured that the US will be forced to continue to fight the Taliban for generations to come. But perhaps worse, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will continue. This is an epic failure by the US government and it’s allies. We will all pay for this for many decades to come.3
The fall of Afghanistan will most certainly change history. History will view this event as an awful strategic failure by the US and its allies. Perhaps equally as important, it will be viewed as a humanitarian crisis of great proportions, tragic for both men and women living in Afghanistan. The surge of refugees flowing into the surrounding countries, Europe, US and Canada will be felt by populations. The wave of fear and uncertainty created by insurrectionists that led to the collapse of the Afghan government and army in 11 days will be remembered as a catastrophic failure. The inability to defend Afghanistan will not be seen as a failure of the Afghan government and people, but a betrayal by an ally that was responsible for providing protection.
The fall of Afghanistan will mark the beginning of a new era, forever changing the course of history. It’s heartbreaking to consider in a time when many countries around the world are experiencing a boom in civil and women’s rights Afghanistan will be turning back the clock several centuries. After this failure US foreign intervention will come to an end. American foreign policy and ventures to liberate and protect freedoms of people abroad will be forever changed. The President will concede that the policy of America playing world police does not work. At this news America’s enemies will rejoice. They once again will have the freedom to embark on campaigns of terror, threatening global stability and peace.
The US went to Afghanistan to remove future threats of terror. In the months and years to come it will become clear that even the core mission will have failed as the threat of terrorism surges to new levels, felt by every free man and woman.
Afghanistan is more than the ‘graveyard of empires.’ It’s the mother of vicious cycles.Maureen Dowd, New York Times Columnist
- Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars. Associated Press. August, 17th, 2021.
- Why Is Afghanistan the ‘Graveyard of Empires’?. The Diplomat. June 30th, 2017.
- ‘This disaster did not have to happen’: Cheney. YouTube – ABC News. August 15th, 2021.